Open Educational Resources (OER) are freely available educational material that the author has licensed allow others to re-use and adapt. In many cases these have been assigned a Creative Commons licence indicating free use.
You should evaluate the quality, currency and relevance of open resources and check their licensing conditions. Additionally, review the educational value of the resource as to subject relevance and pedagogical ‘fit’ of the content within the teaching program.
For more information on strategies for teaching and learning with open resources, refer to Learning Futures' Academic Induction.
Refer to the Open Textbook Initiative guide for information about curating, authoring and publishing open resources, including open textbooks.
What are open textbooks?
An open textbook is a textbook licensed under an open copyright license and made available online to be freely used by students, teachers, and members of the public. Open textbooks can be modified to include local context, indigenous perspectives, or to achieve specific learning outcomes, and they can be accessed online or downloaded for offline use. They provide equitable access for all students and help to achieve the UN's Sustainable Development Goal 4, ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning for all.
Benefits of open textbooks for teaching staff
- The open licenses mean that academics and students can create and edit textbooks that reflect the latest knowledge as well as better speak to their local communities.
- Including diverse voices strengthens learning perspectives and provides local context.
- You may choose to involve your students in the production or review of content.
- You can use different types of content, including H5P, to help engage students.
- You can add, remove and edit content to suit your needs. If you're using an open textbook, you don't need to worry about using the whole book to justify the cost.
- Open textbooks can be quickly improved through direct editing or via feedback and any mistakes can be corrected without needing to wait for a new edition.
- A wide exposure to an author’s teaching interests and expertise, potentially enhancing student recruitment efforts and attracting new research partners and collaborators.
Benefits of open textbooks for students
- Open textbooks represent a considerable saving to the costs of higher education.
- Students can access open textbooks anywhere in the world, at any time. This includes both before programs commence and after they have ended.
- Knowledge can be shared quickly, especially when compared to information published in commercial textbooks or journals, which may take months or years to be available.
- Open textbooks can be accessed by alternative credential participants, who may not have access to licensed e-books and e-journals.
- Open textbooks provide an excellent way for alumni to stay connected to the University and to continue with a program of lifelong learning.
How can I find existing open textbooks?
You can search the Library collection for open access books using Advanced Search:
- Select ‘Advanced Search’.
- Enter your search terms.
- Select Material Type: Books.
- Refine your results by ‘Full Text Online’ and ‘Open Access’, then APPLY FILTERS.
We recommend browsing the open collections in the Curated Open Textbooks section of the Open Textbook Initiative guide and searching the Pressbooks Directory for examples of open textbooks for your subject.
How can I create or clone an open textbook?
Western Open Textbooks is a publishing platform that can be used by Western staff for the creation (or adaptation) of open textbooks under a Creative Commons Licence.
This Pressbooks Quick Start Guide will walk you through the key steps to using Western Open Textbooks to create, author and publish your books.
If you have any questions about finding, using, adapting or creating open textbooks for your subject, please contact your School Librarian for open textbook publishing advice.